Thursday, December 27, 2007

On Overlap and Eschatology

I mentioned earlier this month that on one level it is impossible for anyone to hermetically seal off her theology from her views on matters civil and earthly. This is not due, however, to the line separating the kingdoms being blurred or erased, but to the fact that the believer herself straddles that line.

The overlap, then, exists not within the earthly and heavenly kingdoms themselves, but within us as we attempt to navigate them in this age.

For my own part, the overlap is probably most evident in my thoughts being drawn to the identity of the underdog, the powerless, and the oppressed. I recently re-read the words of black writer Langston Hughes in his 1930s poem "Lenox Avenue Mural":
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?

Or maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

There seems (to me at least) to be an affinity between the status of the civil and spiritual underdog. I'm not saying that to be powerless in one sphere is to be the same in the other (the two kingdoms remain distinct), but I am saying that it is not without significance that Jesus described the blessed man as the one who is spiritually poor, mournful, thirsty, and persecuted.

Since my theological convictions—particularly my amillennial eschatology, which I regard as simply code for "suffering now, glory later"—are such that I have come to consider the church's underdog status to be normative and even conducive to her health, it is only natural that my thoughts are also drawn to the powerless in the civil kingdom as well. In a word, I tend to side with the weaker of the two sides in most disputes.

And the flipside of this is that I can't help but wonder how those whose earthly affinities lie with the wealthy and powerful cannot necessarily be uncomfortable with a poor and powerless church?

Maybe others can be more "regally schizophrenic" than I can, but I would have a much easier time with the War on Terror if I were a postmillennialist.